On discipline and balance

by Debra Dane on March 22, 2012

in Mindset & Mindfulness

I often feel like the biggest living contradiction as I am a recovering perfectionist who has high expectations for herself and yet I lack discipline to actually get things done. I never used to be that way – I was one of those people who got all her work done and often over-delivered. The changes came when I became a stay at home mother almost nine years ago.

 

One of my biggest struggles has always been the lack of deadlines. No matter how much I tried to create them artificially – with to do lists, using timers, finding new routines that would stick – the bottom line still remained that I really could choose to do things or not. Often I chose “not”.*

Sometimes that choice is socially acceptable – choosing to play with my kids instead of cleaning the toilets. What about when I choose to read a book or watch a movie** instead of taking care of the house?

Things always got done in the end so what did it matter?

After 8 years of being the master of my time, and knowing there was almost always “tomorrow”, I have struggled since starting this blog. It is like an unused muscle that I am trying to flex and – ouch –  it is so sore.

Now I feel a whole new set of expectations and a different kind of commitment. It has all been a learning experience and so much of the advice out there is “consistency is king” – if you are going to blog do it on set days or every day – just do it the same.  It makes me feel similar to making parenting choices – start as you mean to go. If you do something casually (to you) once or twice with kids they take it as the new routine. By the third day they are looking for that same thing again even if there are no more ice blocks or you are not in the mood for that special 3pm story time you did twice so far. Be careful what you repeat as they are tuned into that like nothing else.

 

So with a blog if you do something a few times are you meant to keep delivering that regardless of your own moods and needs?  I don’t have the real answer just the struggle with defining for myself what is about me and what is about you, the reader.  If I write simply because it is a day I am supposed to write is that good enough or should I wait for the days when I have something to share and say? Is it good for me to push myself to stretch that discipline muscle finally after all these years and start doing things just because?

 

Clean the toilet because it is Tuesday?

Write a blog post because it is a week day?

After so many years of  working hard to let go of that perfectionism and high expectations is there a way to reconnect with discipline that does not involve adding pressure and anxiety to my life? Those really are the side effects (for me) of perfectionism and expectations. I have been working for years to be more laid back thinking that was the “better” way of life. It certainly seems to be praised and recommended – chill out, relax, lighten up, don’t stress so much, whatever will be will be, don’t try to control everything, wing it a little bit…

but still manage to deliver what you set out to do.

 

I don’t have any answers yet – so far just the struggle to find the balance between getting things done and still enjoying life as a stay at home mother (in transition). This bridge between full time motherhood and whatever is coming next is covered in fog and I keep waiting for it to blow over.

 

Find your simple,

Deb

 

* and my most effective tool to counter this is to invoke Nike and tell myself to “Just Do It” – push myself right in the moment and get it off my plate.

** today I am not making any excuses for ditching it all and heading to the first session of the Hunger Games, sometimes escape really is the best recharge.

 

Image credits:

Discipline by flickr user Grotuk

Foggy Bridge by flickr user Zonie Zambonie

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

kirri March 22, 2012 at 8:22 am

Deb, this is such an interesting post on so many levels…
First of all, I don’t think anyone else is going to believe you lack discipline….sorry! I know how much work it takes to run a blog and produce quality content and to do it at the level you are – that takes a huge amount of discipline. Seriously, kudos to you for that.

I think it is something that is so difficult to sustain, particularly if you are not in the flow or feeling pulled in other areas, and flying mostly solo. I have no doubt you will figure it out and you have a solid connection with your community so all I would suggest is that you continue to do what feels right and real for you and sometimes that might mean not just having commitments and deadlines but having ones that are subject to change and trusting in that.
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Debra Dane March 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Thanks Kirri – the funny thing is that perceived discipline is often pushing through because i know i “should” sustain the levels even though i swore off “shoulds’ – isn’t that the irony – blogging was such a new thing for me and it is taking me a long (i think) time to find my footing on what is right for me (i can do that in all other areas, but for some reason it feels like there are rules and etiquette and obligations within blogging that are both written and unwritten. (just thinking…)
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Deb March 22, 2012 at 10:07 am

Deb

I can relate to this. I get stuff done at work cos I have deadlines and MOSTLY I’m okay with my blogs cos I have deadlines, but I’m struggling to take things to the next level with both blogs – because it will take some motivation and discipline.

From April I’m switching to a 4-day working week (despite the financial implications) so I can focus on my writing more. That is when I’m really gonna need to some discipline, so I don’t just fritter away that extra day doing crap!

Deb
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Debra Dane March 22, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I will be watching how you go ahead. I do think that taking a day from paid work to devote to it would give you the motivation like you say as you don’t want to fritter it away.
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Kelly Exeter March 22, 2012 at 10:37 am

Deb I know JUST what you mean with the blogging and the expectations and the fine line between delivering something consistently .. But then wondering should consistency trump excellence ..ie is it better to have written at least a mediocre post than none at all?

I don’t have any answers, but as a recovering perfectionist myself, I struggle with EXACTLY what you describe above every single day!
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Debra Dane March 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm

You have got it exactly right Kelly – so glad you understand. I COULD deliver if i did it for the sake of it, but if i choose to post on different days each week is that such a bad thing – breaking the consistency rule. I have an experiment planned for the next break in simplify your life (not next week but the next planned break after that) where I would like to take a whole week off the blog – theoretically i should be able to right? but why does it feel like i need permission or I am breaking the rules etc? That is what started making me feel owned by the blog instead of vice versa – every job comes with holiday so why must blogging be a 52 weeks a year commitment “if you want to do well”? (more questions)
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Aleesa March 22, 2012 at 11:11 am

Deb, I can soooo relate. When I’m at ‘paid’ work, I overachieve, over deliver. But at home,,, oh man. There is always tomorrow. And I am my own worse enemy. Like today – it’s raining. I know I should be ironing, or doing a few cupboards out that I have been talking about for more than 6 months. but I’ve done the groceries, and what the heck, I’m going to watch a movie. While I can…

I don’t have the answer but sooo get where you are coming from. And as for writing your blog on certain days – I would say to write when you want to, when you have something to say. I’m not sure how you force it, but I”m not a great writer, so that may be me. As a follower of blogs, I personally don’t like it when a blogger writes too much – I don’t have time to keep up LOL!..

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Debra Dane March 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm

This rain is atrocious and I enjoyed the Hunger Games – and the movie theatre was packed out the door so everyone in Brisbane had the same idea (whether at home or the cinema)- the weather lately has actually been a factor in my not being in the mood to write and achieve anything on certain days so i really hear you. I also know you and know you are a big achiever so it is good to know it is not just me who loses that without the environment of a “job”.
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Missy | The Literal Mom March 22, 2012 at 11:28 am

Ooooohhh, can’t wait to hear how the Hunger Games is! I’m going to see it next week, I think!

Consistency is hard. I got better at it when I made a Google calendar just for my blog. Maybe that would help?
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Debra Dane March 22, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Hi Missy!The movie was great – definitely go see it!

I do have an editorial calendar which helps when i have enough ideas to fill it ; ) – really it is not just the blog it is everything -but what makes me want to change it is the blog as that feels like the push.
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Aroha @ Colours of Sunset March 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm

The only thing that comes to mind for me is that you are always telling us to “find YOUR simple” … so I’d say apply the same to yourself! Don’t do anything on any given day because that is when it is scheduled, unless that works for you? We all get caught up in rules and expectations, but whose? Really, our own are the only ones that matter at the end of the day.
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Debra Dane March 22, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Thanks Aroha – that is the internal fight I have been having – if i am authentically me (amongst my highest value) then blogging “rules” won’t work, just my own rules right? I call it “irony” but sometimes it feels like “hypocrisy” that since i started blogging my message i have lost my own “simple” .This whole post was more about how to find a new simple i guess – i have a lot of ideas and plans and this is all part of transitioning.
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Debbie @ Aspiring Mum March 22, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I get this, I really do. I think you hit the nail on the head for me with regards to meeting deadlines at “paid” work and the contrast to being at home – where it doesn’t really matter too much if things aren’t done within a certain time-frame. However, I need to be more disciplined in every area this year as I try and fit in study time. As for blogging – I think just find what works for you. For me personally, if I don’t have it in me, I don’t write. I leave it until my head is in a better space. I can fret for hours over a post and still not be happy with it, so while I have my schedule, if it’s a huge effort to post something, I won’t – because I’m not being authentic in what I’ve written.

“Just do it” helps me a lot as well. It is such a simple concept, but it works!
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Debra Dane March 22, 2012 at 2:16 pm

That’s it Debbie (and what i said above) the struggle is about balancing being AUTHENTIC to me and my own message while conforming to perceived rules of blogging – so far i have chosen not to write when i don’t have it, but i do hesitate! I keep wanting to get ahead so i have some back up posts to schedule but I need discipline for that too – so far it has not come too often.

Good luck with studying and being more disciplined yourself!
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Julie March 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Hi Deb,

I can relate so much to your post, and understand were you are coming from. I have been a stay-at-home Mum for 3 years, and miss the structure I had at work with timeframes, priorities, and performance plans etc. I use my smart phone for reminders, and try writing ‘to-do-lists’ down on paper, but often get side tracked doing something else. Usually playing with my 3 year old.

I hope you find a balance that works soon. :)
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Debra Dane March 22, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Thanks Julie – there are so many “side tracks” at home aren’t there. It is a rare day where you can get momentum going on anything right? I love a day that just flows …
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Ba March 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Hiya Deb

I’m not a blog-reader. Having said that, a girlfriend recommended yours, I subscribed, and I’m reading it. Go figure.

Anyway – in my humble opinion, with respect to how frequently you blog it’s a win-win versus a lose-lose.

Win-win is you post when you have something to say. You win with having less pressure, more time for thought and for creativity with respect to what you want to talk about, and the reader wins by being the recipient of an insightful and interesting blog.

Lose-lose is you post because it’s a week day. You will have anxiety and pressure to produce, stiffled creativity, begin to resent the process, and in all likeliness both your family and your posts would suffer as a result.

It’s a pretty simple equation I reckon – pressure and anxiety murders quality and creativity.

You say the advice out there from bloggers is “consistency is king”. (Probably explains why there are tens of thousands of frequent-but-dead-boring bloggers out there.) Personally, as a reader I reckon “Quality is king”.

This mother needs another average blog to read like I need another load of washing. No time and even less interest!! Give me an infrequent-but-quality blog over a frequent-but-mediocre one any day of the week.

Oh…and the toilet thing??? Total no-brainer. When you are on your deathbed maybe 60 years from now, imagine yourself thinking back over your life and saying “oh my god, now I’m dying I just wish I’d cleaned that toilet more often” Nahhhhh….so play with the kids. Not because the toilet doesn’t need doing, but because you know it definitely does. and it Really. Doesn’t. Matter.

Cheers from a fellow recovering perfectionist and PND rollercoaster rider with an obviously very dirty toilet!

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Debra Dane March 22, 2012 at 4:16 pm

OMG you just made my year! thank you so much for commenting! I already knew in my heart that I just have to do what is right for me always and don’t know why i feel i have to follow all the advice out there just because i have entered a different arena. I will return to my middle of the road approach to life – some discipline and some going with the flow IN ALL AREAS and the chips will fall where they may (i really can’t control that anyway right?)

Thank you for making an exception to blog reading and coming out of the woodwork to comment – i really appreciate it!

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Maxabella March 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm

I know exactly what ou mean, Deb. I can’t ‘fake’ discipline either… which is why I find scheduling my posts so brilliant. I write in bulk when I want to and schedule them all to pst drop, drop, drop at 9pm on weekdays and 4pm on Sunday. Too easy.

The only pst I don’t schedule is my Grateful post – but I find that one pretty much writes itself each week.

Regardless, a blog s actually a very big commitment, so you must get caught up too much in the ‘coulda shoulda wouldas’. You own this space and your readers are *your* readers. Not some statistic or generalisation. I think they (we!) will like you any way you turn out. x
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Debra Dane March 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Thanks Bron – I appreciate everyone’s input today. While it was about a bigger issue I know the blog part of it was getting me down as it felt like a “should” rather than a “want” at times. So easy answer for me is to ignore the shoulds in this area the same as i do in other areas and go with my own flow ; )
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beth March 22, 2012 at 10:26 pm

I found this post so interesting! As a follower of your blog, (and not a professional blogger), I never would have guessed that this was a struggle of yours! One of the things that sets your blog apart from a lot of others is your authenticity. And I would have thought that you were following your rule to us “52 week to SYL” followers of doing what’s right for you. It is because of your willingness to discuss this, rather than pretend that you know everything is why I love your blog!! Be kind to yourself, those of us that love your work are appreciative of your posts and I would venture to say that the vast majority of us don’t expect them by a certain deadline!

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Debra Dane March 23, 2012 at 10:56 am

Thank you so much Beth! No I definitely don’t know everything and what I have as a strength in one area sometimes does not translate as easily to other areas etc. I think a big lesson in this for me (since I like to learn new things) is the reminder that we don’t learn things instantly. 7 months blogging feels like a huge amount of time to have figured things out, but really it is a huge learning curve, complicated at times and very public so it makes sense that I am still finding what works for me and like you said (and I say all the time) i need to be kind to myself as I learn! Thank you for your support and feedback xxx
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Melissa March 23, 2012 at 1:14 am

I completely understand where you’re coming from. As a reader I appreciate all of your blogs and love your insight (everyone who has said it is SO right – you evoke discipline even if that’s not your intent). But honestly there are very few blogs that I depend on to post regularly. I appreciate content much more than consistency – I say as long as something is posted weekly (personally).

We have all been there. I’m there NOW with my blog even though my readership is a tiny fraction of yours – it’s hard to feel that you may be dropping the ball or not living up to your potential. But you also don’t want to feel that your “cheating” your readers out of heart filled posts because you’re trying to pump out something just because your calendar says to.

Regardless what you do or how you feel you’re doing – it’s obvious you have wonderful people around you who will be there to read it no matter what!

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Debra Dane March 23, 2012 at 10:59 am

Thanks Melissa. I love this: ” it’s hard to feel that you may be dropping the ball or not living up to your potential. But you also don’t want to feel that your “cheating” your readers out of heart filled posts because you’re trying to pump out something just because your calendar says to” – that potential is one of the pressure components isn’t it?

PS – if you sign in with your blog / into comment luv your latest post will appear and I would love people to be able to see the blogs of people in this community when they post comments. xx
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